AT a cost of US$300 million so far, and with another $600 million needed for further searches, the Iraq Survey Group has failed to find a single one of those weapons of mass destruction that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair told their respective countries were an urgent threat to their security only a few months ago. The 1'200 experts from the United States, Britain and Australia (some of them from the much-derided UN Weapons Inspectors team) have, not surprisingly, found “significant amounts of equipment and weapons-related activities” but no evidence whatsoever of the existence of weapons of mass destruction. President Bush gamely made the best of a bad job by saying that the Survey Group's findings “reinforced the US case for war”; understandably, Mr Blair chose not to say anything but gave the job to Foreign Minister Jack Straw who loyally insisted that the report's contents “justified the removal of Saddam Hussein”. Even if that were true, the fact remains that, according to Mr Blair's original prospectus, Britain did not go to war for that reason.

At some point it will be necessary to ask whether the UN Inspectors under Dr Hans Blix, and if given the kind of resources made available to the Anglo/American Survey Group, could have come up with just the same information that was published yesterday. The truth is that if a UN team had returned and reported categorically that there were no weapons of mass destruction, they would have been accused of inefficiency or worse by a United States which wanted to fight first and look afterwards rather than looking first and fighting only if it had been proved that there was a reason to do so.


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